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What do you suppose you’d find, to root around in that walnut-sized brain for a while?

It’s a pathetic nod to self-care I suppose, but when I drive to campus, I route myself, as near as possible to the Lake Mendota shoreline. Hence in the dark morning I re-trace my mental landmarks, the marsh where cranes nest, the mental hospital’s shady patch where the deer bed, the ostentatious lakeside lawns where the foxes and I trailed each other for several hundred yards, the boat ramp where I spied a red phalarope that one time and gained my 15-minutes of fame among the local birders – and the backwater pond at Tenny Park where the Great Blue Heron roosted late into the fall.

They’re more gray than blue, not that it matters all that much when silhouetted against the morning sky. But there it was, or is, or might be (too dark to tell); perched on the same branch of the dead ash, elegant neck folded, pterodactyl wings tucked, looking as organic to the dead gray branches as the mushrooms sprouting from the punky trunk and the weathered wood where the bark long-since let go.

What’s in there? I wonder. An instinctual map to some gulf coast mangroves? To a farm pond in the flatwoods? To a stopover site in the big river floodplain? Does the map remember evolving with the shifting continents? Since the time when her kind shared the world with other dinosaurs (you know, the big ones)? What would she tell me? Would I even understand?

I crossed the Isthmus, one among a river of taillights headed west, even this early. On my right, at James Madison Park, our little local sea — the expanse of November-dark, morning-dark water stretching north. Four miles across. Boats, canoes, and kayaks are put away now. Mooring balls and navigation markers pulled up. We are waiting on ice. In the warmth of my down coat and heated car, my hindbrain knows the movement of the water, the sound of groaning ice.

So much of the energy of the Reformed Journal blog is that of an extended conversation on an evolving faith. The writers facilitate, inviting readers to see what they do and think what they think for a moment. The conversation is at the same time progressive and atavistic – which is amazing to me.

It’s not easy sometimes, when the inspiration you want doesn’t come. You find yourself staring at an impending deadline, sometimes with your imagination clouded by distractions, and sometimes, with a wounded spirit. Fear that you might not have something meaningful to add when your time comes is a powerful motivator.

But the RJ pulls it off. Reliably. My faith is buoyed by the voices that add to the conversation, both the RJ contributors and the community of commentators. It’s frankly a little astonishing that this little enterprise chugs along, on the efforts of a cast of wonderful and committed volunteers (and a big shout-out to the editors and organizers in the background).

So please (and you knew this was coming), consider adding your financial support. We’re wrapping this campaign up. The RJ presence in our lives is not free of costs to keep the lights on and to maintain the virtual architecture.

And above all else, thank you!

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Photo: Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Tim Van Deelen

Tim Van Deelen is Professor of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He grew up in Hudsonville, Michigan, and graduated from Calvin College. From there he went on to the University of Montana and Michigan State University. He now studies large mammal population dynamics, sails on Lake Mendota, enjoys a good plate of whitefish, and gains hope for the future from terrific graduate students. 

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